I was very privileged to be able to go see an advanced screening of “Captain America: Civil War” last night. Marvel has been very forthcoming with this film, showing it to critics last week, nearly an entire month prior to release. Last Thursday night, Marvel hosted a series of early screenings across the country, and I was able to secure tickets to the showing in Culver City last night. Below are some of my raw, as-spoiler-free-as-possible thoughts on the film.
NOTE: None of what is discussed below is in any way spoiler material. If you have seen any of the trailers for this film, then you should be just fine. But if you haven’t, stop reading now. It’s best to go in completely dark.
Juggling an ensemble cast in any movie is a tall order. Juggling this particular ensemble cast of heroes is an even taller order. To create compelling, moving story arcs for every member of this ensemble cast? Nearly impossible.
Tell that to the Russo Brothers, though. The dynamic director duo crammed a whopping 12 superheroes into their latest Marvel extravaganza, “Captain America: Civil War.” I have maintained a healthy dose of skepticism that they would be able to pull this off, despite their masterful effort with the previous “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” However, I learned that this skepticism was completely unnecessary. What viewers will likely come away with after seeing this film is an awe at how effortless and sublime the storytelling is in this movie. The flow is as good as you could hope for in a movie of this size.
This film finds the Avengers fighting the latest world-threatening adversary, once again brandishing their other-worldly talents and powers to do good. What we come to find though is that all is not so rosy in superhero land. As we see from the events shown in the previous films, this supergroup has taken part in some high-profile, destructive international incidents; their efforts to save lives have endangered the lives of countless innocents along the way. The United Nations call for an accord to be struck, putting the Avengers under the authority of a governing body. What follows is a film that is essentially a family quarrel, in which the Avengerssplit along the fault line of whether they ought to be held in check, or to be able to act freely and save lives without the bonds of bureaucracy. The titular Captain America, Steve Rogers believes that the “safest hands are still our own,” electing not to agree to the accords, putting himself and the rest of the Avengers who side with him into the camp of fugitive heroes. Tony Stark, the Iron Man, decides to submit to authority, wracked with guilt over the damage he and his masked fellow heroes have caused while unchecked.
The film delves into the psychology of these heroes masterfully. The most ensemble-y of all the Marvel Avengers storyline movies so far, “Civil War” is generous in ensuring that all of these characters get a fair amount of development and storytelling. While the returning characters are helped by their prior film appearances, the arrivals of new characters into the storyline were sure to be a challenge to handle. But viewers need not fear.
The debut of a certain fierce, feline-suit-wearing crusader is fraught with regality. Black Panther is strong, dynamic, and even a sympatethic character; a welcome, epic rendition that will be met with uproarious audience approval. But one of the true showstoppers of this movie is indeed the introduction to a friendly, neighborhood web-slinging wunderkind. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is just fantastic. But more on that in a month. Hah.
The action sequences are imaginatively choreographed, without the cynical sameness that has begun to plague other superhero movie franchises. The destruction carries actual weight, the punches and kicks feel weighty and realistic. The camerawork of brothers Russo and cinematographer Trent Opaloch is equal parts nauseating, equal parts breath-taking, a mishmash that works in some areas but doesn’t in others. All things considered, there is a very long, very drawn-out action sequence that neither FEELS long, nor drawn out. The winking sarcasm and pure comedy of these characters as they duke it out is so classic Marvel, and works to absolutely hilarious success.
There is so much more to unpack, and I cannot wait to see this film again next month and chat with folks about it. Be assured, be ready, everyone. They knocked this one out of the stadium and into the parking lot.